Revolution #224, February 6, 2011

January 25 Protests Against the Grand Jury Witchhunt

On January 25, protests against the Chicago federal grand jury witch hunt were held in 50 cities from Tuscon, Arizona and Dallas, Texas to Asheville, N.C., Rochester, N.Y., and as far away as Kiev in Ukraine, according to online reports. The largest demonstrations were in Minneapolis and Chicago where activists have been subpoenaed to appear before the grand jury.

In Chicago several hundred demonstrators protested outside the Dirksen Federal Building where nine people were scheduled to appear before the grand jury after receiving subpoenas last December. This brings to 23 the number of people who have been subpoenaed. Among these nine are six Palestinians, and all nine are Palestinian solidarity activists. Maureen Murphy, the editor of the online journal The Electronic Intifada and one of those subpoenaed, read a statement for the group that stated, "We will not participate in this fishing expedition."

There were no new developments reported at the demonstration in the legal situations of those subpoenaed.

The Chicago demonstration was also addressed by Sarah Smith and union representatives from the SEIU and Chicago Teachers' Union, as well as longtime Puerto Rican activists who in the past have been the targets of grand jury repressive persecutions. Palestinian and Puerto Rican youth joined the rally.

In Minnesota, the Anti-War Committee reports that more than 150 people gathered to show solidarity with those ordered to appear on January 25 in Chicago. Jess Sundin, whose home was raided in September, spoke to the fact that all 23 people subpoenaed have stated their intention to not cooperate with the grand jury: "We will not do anything to help with the prosecution of fellow activists for violations of an unjust law—the law banning what they call 'material support to foreign terrorist organizations.' This law criminalizes simple acts of solidarity that should be protected by our constitutional rights to freedom of association, speech, travel and dissent. These freedoms are also protected under international law." (Quoted in online accounts of the Minnesota demonstration.)

There were reports of intimidation and harassment of demonstrators in some cities. In Chicago, the press conference was booted out of the official press briefing area inside the federal building—an act that one mainstream media cameraman said he had never seen before. Activists in other cities reported obvious monitoring, including an online account that in Memphis, three FBI/JTTF (Joint Terrorism Task Force) agents showed up at the office of the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center to supposedly "let them know there was going to be 'antiwar activity' going on." The agents left after it was pointed out to them that it was Mid-South Peace and Justice Center's event! Later two Memphis participants were sought for bench warrants by local sheriffs, with one subjected to a search of every room with guns drawn.

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